15 people joined the suspected Buffalo shooter’s private Discord chat shortly before the shooting
At least 15 people joined alleged Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron’s private account on the Discord communications app shortly before the shooting at the Tops Friendly Markets store, a person with knowledge of the internal investigation told CNN. Discord.
A Discord spokesperson previously confirmed that Gendron sent an invitation to a small group of people to view his chat logs about 30 minutes before the violence.
“A private, invite-only server has been created by the suspect to serve as his personal chat log,” the Discord spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday. “About 30 minutes before the attack, however, a small group of people were invited and joined the server. Prior to this, our records indicate that no one else has seen the log chat log on this private server.
After the alleged shooter invited people to join the server, his messages would have been accessible to the guests as well as anyone they shared access with, the spokesperson said. Discord took down the server and related content “as soon as” it became aware of it after the shooting, the spokesperson said.
Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, was indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday, according to an affidavit from Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush.
The Erie County grand jury voted for an indictment against defendant Payton Gendron, “with respect to the felony complaint filed on or about May 14, 2022,” the affidavit states. The grand jury investigation is not yet complete, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a statement.
Gendron, of Conklin, New York, previously pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, and further charges are expected. The first-degree murder charge covers two or more murders in Buffalo, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told CNN.
The indictment was announced Thursday during a brief court appearance for Gendron, who was ordered to remain in detention without bond until further orders from a grand jury. He wore an orange jumpsuit and white mask and was handcuffed and shackled as he entered the courtroom flanked by officers.
His next court appearance is scheduled for June 9. Defense attorney Brian Parker had no comment.
As Gendron was led away after his court appearance, someone in the crowded courtroom shouted, “Payton, you’re a coward!”
Gendron is accused of driving nearly 200 miles away to kill 10 people and injure three others in a shooting that targeted a Tops supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood. Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism. Of the 13 victims shot, 11 were black.
The FBI has completed its crime scene investigation at the supermarket and returned the building to its owners, officials said Thursday. Tops President and COO John Persons has pledged to reopen the supermarket as soon as possible, noting its importance in the ‘food desert’ which does not have easy access to other grocery options .
“We want to make sure everything is done right and we open it in a respectful way,” Persons said. “We will balance all of these priorities.”
While the suspect is behind bars, New York officials have called for a closer look into how he was able to obtain firearms and how he communicated his plans online.
In June, Gendron showed a warning sign of potential violence when he completed a school project on murder-suicides while a student at Susquehanna Valley Central High School in Conklin, officials said.
The police were called to the school, and he was taken for a mental health evaluation, then released. At the time, police did not seek a “red flag” protection order against Gendron.
The Red Flag Act, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, is designed to prevent anyone who shows signs of threatening themselves or others from purchasing a firearm , says the New York website.
But because the appraisal was not an involuntary undertaking, it did not preclude the alleged shooter from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal law, the police spokesman said. New York State, Beau Duffy.
Since the shooting, Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a set of gun laws, along with other changes to law enforcement protocol when a person shows they may be harmful to themselves or for the others. On Wednesday, Hochul said she would sign an executive order requiring state police to file an “extreme risk protection order” under the Red Flag Act when she believes an individual is a threat to himself, for himself or for others.
The firearms law package would aim to close loopholes around specific types of firearms that fall outside current regulations, including high-powered concealable firearms and those that can be modified to contain high-capacity magazines, she said.
The proposed legislation would address “just one of these huge loopholes that you can go through while driving a truck”, she said.
Additionally, New York Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into social media platforms allegedly used by the suspect, including Discord.
A Discord spokesperson said the company would cooperate with the state attorney general’s investigation.
In online posts by Gendron on Discord and in a 180-page document that investigators believe he wrote, he describes himself as a white supremacist, fascist and anti-Semite. He reportedly wrote that he targeted the Buffalo supermarket because it had the highest concentration of black people in upstate New York and said he subscribed to the ‘replacement theory’, a conspiracy theory which claims that a cabal of elites is trying to replace white people with non-white immigrants.
The suspect’s social media posts have become central to the investigation as they provide details of how he planned his attack and his motives.
In posts first shared on Discord and then more widely on the hate-filled online forum 4Chan, Gendron said he visited the grocery store several times on March 8 to learn about the layout. He noted how many black and white people shopped during his visits and drew a map of the store’s interior, according to his posts.
The suspect also streamed the shooting live on the Twitch website. The company said it deleted the video within minutes, but social media companies were struggling to contain its spread.
James’ investigation, revealed by his office on Wednesday, focuses on Twitch, Discord, and the 4chan and 8chan (now known as 8kun) websites. Other, as-yet-unnamed companies may also be involved in the investigation, James said.
James will report the findings of the investigation to Hochul.
“These social media platforms need to take responsibility. They need to be more vigilant in monitoring content and they need to be held accountable for fostering engagement over public safety,” the governor said.
In a letter to James, Hochul called for an investigation to determine “whether specific companies have civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating or providing a platform to plan and promote violence” .